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Jen Poston, NASA Employee and Dairy Farmer
01.10.12
 
Three years ago, Management Information Specialist Jen Poston joined her boyfriend on his family farm, the Old Brown Farm or the TLV Tree Farm, in Glenelg, Maryland. The farm is one of only a handful of working farms left in Howard County, Maryland and is part of the farmland preservation program; the land must always be farmed and never developed. “We live in the farmhouse that dates back to the 1800s,” notes Poston. “My boyfriend’s father and his father were born in this house. Until 1982, we were one of about 30 working dairy farms in Howard County. Now there are only three.”

Poston’s boyfriend works the farm full time with his family. Says Poston, “I help with everything. When daylight breaks, we’re up and out of the house. We work until sunset.” The 89 acre farm has three houses, five barns, various animals, assorted crops including pumpkins, and lots and lots of Christmas trees. The Browns also have two sheep, 15 beef cattle, 10 pigs, and 100 laying hens plus 200 broiler chickens. Unlike most farms, the Browns also have several pets including two geese, two sheep, two goats, one Black
Jen Poston's farm in Howard County› Larger image
Photo of the farm where Jen Poston lives and helps out. Credit: J. Poston
Labrador, and their mascot Karl the peacock. Says Poston, “Karl sits by the side of the road imitating the car horns. It’s his entertainment and watching him is ours. Eve, our goat, was born on Christmas Eve, rejected by her mother, and joined us for Christmas Eve dinner. She is always trying to come back into the house. Our two geese are like Mother Goose and her friend.”

“We grow tomatoes, corn, green beans, squash, lettuce, potatoes, okra, and berries, and about 800 acres of Hay and straw” says Poston. “We also raise beef, pork, lamb, and chicken, all of which are free-range, with no hormones, no antibiotics, and no genetically modified organisms.” Ten acres are planted with “a lot” of pumpkins and 52 acres are planted with about 48,000 Christmas trees.

The family sells pumpkins every weekend in October. People pick their pumpkins off the vine and the cows get the leftovers. The day after Thanksgiving through the weekend before Christmas, the farm sells the trees. “We provide the saw, they provide the memory,” says Poston. “People go to the field to pick and cut their own tree. People don’t realize that it takes seven years for a Christmas tree to mature.” She continues, “Our farm has many varieties of trees, but our best seller and our sons’ favorite is the Douglas fir because of the soft needles which smell citrusy when you touch them. Our second best seller and my favorite is the Fraser fir because of its long needle retention and strong branches.” They sell close to 2,000 trees every season. Their biggest competition is not other tree farms, but the fake trees. Notes Poston, “You can plant our trees after Christmas and continue the memories.”

Unlike the movies, there have never been any arguments among customers over the trees. “We have so many to choose from,” says Poston. “And Santa is watching on weekends so no one really wants to fight in front of him.” Santa, a family friend, used to sit in a sleigh pulled by donkeys dressed with reindeer antlers. “We never could get Rudolph’s red nose to stay on,” notes Poston. Now he sits in an antique sled indoors and poses for pictures with children.

The family replants about 4,000, twelve-inch seedlings every spring. “If we need to water, we will, but Mother Nature usually takes care of us,” says Poston. “Our biggest problem is the deer that eat or knock branches off of about 25% of our seedlings. There is nothing we can do.” Most of the tree care involves weeding, protecting and trimming. “If the soil has the right nutrients, you don’t need any fertilizer,” notes Poston.

“We also participate in “Trees for Troops,” which sends Christmas trees to military families,” says Poston. “We think it is important to support our troops.”

Explains Poston, “I love farming. I use my brain at work, but at home I enjoy working with my hands outside in the fresh air.” The family’s food comes from the farm as much as possible. “My favorites are the maple sausage, lettuce, and strawberries,” she says. “I never thought I’d end up a farmer’s wife, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We think both of our boys will also grow up to be farmers on the family farm too.”
 
 
Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.